Using Earned Media to Build Trust

July 21, 2020  |  Sarah Schmidt, Lauren MurrayColleen Moore

Thinking Big

The Time is Now to Listen, Speak and Engage

We’re halfway through 2020, a year that has brought about a global pandemic, historic cultural movements and unprecedented change. First came the start of the recession in February, the coronavirus outbreak in March, George Floyd’s death in May, the L.G.B.T.Q. Supreme Court ruling in June and, most recently, the Stop Hate for Profit boycott of Facebook and Instagram — and that doesn’t account for all the moments and milestones in between. In response, brands have been challenged on their values, corporate social responsibility and caring beyond the customer and into the community.

These disruptive events have caused marketers to change plans, readjust and then pivot again. And it’s never been clearer that earned media practices like public relations, crisis communications and social media are the foundation to building brand confidence, empathy and — most importantly — trust among customers, employees and stakeholders.

The State of Brand Trust

In today’s world, there is no doubt that trust is at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Trust is defined as the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something. Brand trust not only generates sales, it drives loyalty, employee talent and organizational value.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust in 2020, trust is now the second most important factor in a consumer’s decision to buy a new brand or become a loyal customer, only behind price. In the same study conducted in 2019, consumers ranked trust fifth behind more traditional indicators like product performance, customer service, retail presence and ingredients. Amidst tidal waves of change, 2020 is the year of trust.

Trust Must be Earned

Earned media is —and always has been — the most trusted form of brand content. Trust cannot be bought, it must be earned through the eyes of credible third parties such as peer reviews, word-of-mouth marketing and reputable news outlets. In fact, the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found personal experience (59%) and earned media (44%) were the two most important factors in the gain or loss of consumer trust.

Purpose-based Brands Drive Business

While there is no one path forward in today’s media landscape, it is important to recognize the inherent relationship between trust and values. According to Kantar’s 2019 U.S. MONITOR survey, 74% of millennials, 72% of centennials, 65% of generation x and 62% of baby boomers say it’s important the companies they buy from are clear about their values.

This sentiment rings true now more than ever as consumers increasingly expect businesses to address broader societal issues like health disparities, racial inequality and community unrest. They crave consistent, authentic communication from brands and regularly look to businesses as thought leaders to help shape their point of view on the topics that matter most.

When it comes to building trust, it’s not enough to simply craft a templated statement or generic social media post. Smart brands dig a level deeper and look for ways to align their core values with their audience’s core values. At BVK, we define core values as guiding life principles. In times of crisis, they remind us what matters most and help us push forward to a better tomorrow. Now, more than ever, our values will drive our decisions and guide our new reality.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Consumers are emerging from the last few months with a renewed desire to better themselves, their communities and their world. While things may feel challenged and raw right now, these are the growing pains towards a betterment society — and they all point towards consumers demanding brands make positive changes, take an activist role and inspire hope.

Earned media provides the platform to elevate brand efforts, and the time is now for brands to get clear on their core values, audiences and ultimate purpose in order to listen, speak and engage.

Over the next month, the Trust Series will cover how brands can leverage public relations, social media and influencer marketing to build trust, confidence and empathy with their audiences. Each post will dive into a different discipline through the lens of how to effectively listen, speak and engage:

Listen: How well do you know your audience?

Speak: Are your values inherent in everything you do?

Engage: Do your actions speak louder than your words?

We hope you’ll join us for our next post on public relations.

Now is the time to take meaningful action. Are you interested in elevating your earned media efforts to help build trust? Let’s chat. Contact Sarah Schmidt at [email protected], Lauren Murray at [email protected] or Colleen Moore at [email protected] to learn more.


is Vice President, Earned Media at BVK


Lauren Murray is a Director, Earned Media at BVK


Colleen Moore is Colleen is a Senior Account Planner at BVK

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